Converting to any religion is always a complex and ongoing journey. With a faith as politicized and ritualistic as Islam, this journey gets heavily monitored and criticized from non-Muslims and Muslims alike.
While I haven’t gone through one per say, most converts to Islan go through more orthodox phases. This often means cutting out some non-Muslim friends and acquaintances, not frequenting events or restaurants which serve alcohol, attending only gender-segregated events, etc. This is often heavily encouraged from community members and further orthodox behaviours are continually reinforced.
Now, let’s be clear, by orthodox I do not mean “extremist” in the Western understanding of it. I have yet to encounter a space which permits or encourages violence. I am implying ritualistic orthodoxy; sadly, one that abides by strict dichotomy of gender roles and patriarchy.
Truth be told, I have enjoyed ritual orthodoxy. The morning prayer [fajr] is much too early in the morning but I still very much would enjoy praying 5 times per day, fasting, wearing hijab, etc. I would but often don’t. I don’t because trying to practice alone in a secular Western setting is awkward: explaining my Muslim-ness is draining and my practices are unconventional to the untrained non-Muslim mind. I don’t because I cannot appreciate speech peppered with sexism, homophobia and colonialism, the type that plagues socially conservative spaces — which are most Canadian mosques.
There are great movements across the world to render our religious spaces women and queer-friendly, but we are still navigating the space between social progressiveness and religious orthodoxy, and like many converts, these spaces are going through growing pains and take the shape of the journeys which have pushed theM into existence.
I have been a convert for 4 years and many would argue that my practice is greatly lacking. I love God and I believe Mohammad is His messenger, but that has done little to convince me that I belong to the greater community of Muslims. Persevering in Islam for me is not a matter of choice but a matter of fact: I am Myslim because I believe in one God and that Prophet Muhammad was His messenger; however, further than that, I often fail to grasp exactly what my belief in these two statements entail as far as my practice of orthodox rituals, most of which are part of the written records of the acts of Prophet Muhammad [Sunnah] and NOT from the Qu’ran. Some might say that believing in Prophet Muhammad automatically requires that one believes in acting like he did, but I believe in his message of the Qu’ran not in the Sunnah recorded by 3rd parties.
I am still navigating my own practice of Islam and figuring out, day to day, what fits me, what practices make me better versus what makes me bitter.
I don’t want to become someone who resents herself or others for pushing me towards a dishonest version of myself and of my faith. I have high expectations of myself and expect me to always be the best version of myself. This is why this journey will always be a work in progress and navigating various spaces, people and philosophies will continue to be part of this journey. I pray I will always be of those who submit to The Creator, but I am open to learning what submission might mean in Its greater plans for me.